LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Richard Williams, a 68-year-old semi-retired attorney living in Lakewood Ranch, has quietly become an advocate for the hearing impaired.
A few weeks ago, Williams, a supervisor on the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority and Community Development District 6 board, contacted Complete Hearing Solutions in St. Petersburg to inquire about the cost of installing telecoil sensors or a looping system inside Lakewood Ranch Town Hall salons.
The sensors would allow sound to be broadcast directly to certain hearing aids, allowing hearing implant users to hear conversations more clearly.
The estimated the cost came to $3,554.
Before going any further, Williams consulted with Eva Rey, the executive director of the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority, who was familiar with the system from a prior job.
“We received real positive feedback from the residents who utilized the system,” Rey said. “It really changed their meeting experience and they could participate so much easier.”
To help pay for the costs, Williams applied for a 50/50 grant from the Hearing Loss Association of America to help install the sensors, and he volunteered to pay the remaining balance.
Williams views this as a necessity, not just for those who frequent town hall, but also for himself.
Years ago, he too fell victim to hearing loss.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, about 17 percent of adults in the U.S. report some degree of hearing loss and by age 65, one out of three people will develop hearing loss. Sixty percent of the people with hearing loss are either in the work force or in educational settings.
“I was a city attorney for 40 years and I had sudden hearing loss in the late ‘90s,” Williams said.
A hearing impaired person sitting in the audience, or on the dais, like Williams, can have trouble picking up the conversation they most want to hear among other the other sounds in the room.
Williams had so much difficulty with his hearing that he retired earlier than he wanted to from the active practice.”
In early December of 2011, Williams had surgery to have an Envoy Esteem hearing aid implanted into his skull. He’s still adjusting.
“I have to learn to hear again,” he said.
Williams is a member of the Hearing Loss Association of Sarasota and is the newsletter editor. He has since attended several facilities that are now looped and wanted Lakewood Ranch’s Town Hall to join the list.
“This is a facility center that serves the community,” he said.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 748-0411 ext. 7049. Tweet: @_1NickWilliams.